The pressure is starting to build on Springbok coach Allister Coetzee and his team as the honeymoon period ends. Though the Boks have not been playing poorly, proving competitive is regarded as not good enough in South African sport. Winning is the only currency that is recognised.
However, winning only fixes things in the short term. We live in a society where we are in way too much of a hurry and are driven by an appetite for instant gratification. To date, Coetzee has been in charge for just five Test matches but almost everyone is expecting him to immediately make magic with a team that is in a state of transition.
It’s easy to criticise from outside the camp and, if you have never put on a pair of takkies and coached a team before, you have no idea how difficult the oval-ball game can be at times. During periods of adversity, a professional coach needs to stick by his principles and believe in what he is doing.
Coetzee has made good selections from the start in terms of playing personnel and, although the Springboks might not be getting it right all the time from a game play perspective, the former Stormers mentor has been around long enough to know how to win rugby matches. For me, that is precisely why he was appointed by the suits at SA Rugby on a four-year contract in the first place and he needs to be supported.
Maintaining consistency in the national coaching staff is absolutely critical because we can no longer afford to bounce from one Springbok coach to the next as we’ve done for the past 15 years.
Meanwhile, Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss’s recent announcement that he will retire from Test rugby at the conclusion of the 2016 season came like a bolt from the blue.
No matter what kind of spin you put on it, it does make you wonder what the motivation would be for someone, at the age of 30, to retire from Test rugby and relinquish the Springbok captaincy.
Is it down to the pressure or does he perhaps have an option to ply his trade abroad in the near future?
Playing overseas has become a viable proposition, with top-class rugby players able to earn up to R15-million a year.
I am struggling to buy the argument that Strauss never intended to captain the Springboks for a lengthy period of time.
However, we have to respect his decision to bring the curtain down on his Test career. It will leave the national team light on leadership and there is a question mark as to his natural successor.
Talismanic Lions captain Warren Whiteley has been touted as the next Springbok skipper in some circles.
However, the reality is that Whiteley is still largely untested at international level – he has eight Test caps to his name – and there is no guarantee he is going to be a long-term Springbok stalwart.
Moreover, Duane Vermeulen was the man in the saddle at No8 for South Africa before his injury and was seen as a potential national captain in his own right.
But the Springboks will, for now, put captaincy talk on the back burner as they prepare to tackle the Wallabies, who are desperate to snap their dreadful six-match losing streak on Saturday.